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July 26, 2012

Preview: OL is a question mark


MORE: Gallington is the key | Free 30-day trial 

Most of the questions about Texas Tech's offense heading into the 2012 season involve the team's offensive line.

The Red Raiders must replace two starters from last year's team in left guard Lonnie Edwards and center Justin Keown, although Keown only started eight games due to injury. The unit is also entering its first under offensive line coach, and former Abilene Christian head coach, Chris Thomsen.

Thomsen inherits a unit that is more experienced than most assume -- especially on the front line -- but still needs time to gel as a unit. Left tackle LaAdrian Waddle is a three-year starter, right tackle Terry McDaniel started nine games in 2011 and center Deveric Gallington has a number of starts under his belt but only one at center. Tech's offensive line is further boosted by the transfer of former Texas A&M starter Brian Thomas, who started 25 games for the Aggies before transferring this summer.

Redshirt freshman Le'Raven Clark is the only projected starter with no college football experience.

POSITION VITALS
Texas Tech's offensive line was arguably one of the team's biggest disappointments of 2011. The unit was thought to be a strength of the offense heading into the season, but ended up falling well short of those expectations. Due to a lack of much returning experience, the Red Raiders' offensive line was a cause of some worry during the spring, but the transfer of former Texas A&M starter Brian Thomas seems to have alleviated a lot of those concerns.
THE BASICS
Returning Starters: Deveric Gallington (12), Terry McDaniel (12), LaAdrian Waddle (12), Beau Carpenter (1)

Others Returning: Kyle Clark, Le'Raven Clark, Alfredo Morales, Tony Morales, James Polk, Matt Wilson

Newcomers: Rashad Fortenberry, Jared Kaster, Trey Keenan, Brian Thomas

Departures: Lonnie Edwards, Justin Keown, Mickey Okafor
2011 NUMBERS TO KNOW
• Texas Tech's offensive line allowed a total of seven sacks during the team's five-game skid to end the season; four of those came in a 52-20 loss to Texas.

• The Red Raiders averaged 3.84 yards per rush, which was the third-worst mark in the Big 12 -- though that was with key injuries at running back and center.

• LaAdrian Waddle ended the season having started 25 consecutive games dating back to the beginning of the 2010 season.
BATTLE TO WATCH
The starting left guard position will be up for grabs when Tech opens fall camp in August. Beau Carpenter is more experienced in the Red Raiders' system, but Texas A&M transfer Brian Thomas has 25 starts under his belt.
Sophomore Beau Carpenter, who earned his first career start last season against Iowa State, will battle with Thomas for the top spot at left guard. Thomas has an obvious edge in experience, but may be a little out of shape at this point.

Gallington's continued development at center is also a huge question heading into camp. He filled in for an injured Justin Keown at points last season -- including most of  the Oklahoma upset -- and entered the 2011-12 offseason as the Red Raiders' starting center. He had some low snaps early this spring, but those should be resolved after doing a lot of one-on-one work with Doege.

The experience and talent is there for the Red Raiders' offensive line to have a good season this fall, but it will all depend on the group's chemistry and the leadership of Gallington. With Thomas still finishing up the semester at A&M, and Clark just getting his feet wet, the offensive line struggled at points this spring. That was somewhat expected, but the will need to take a big step in camp and during the team's non-conference if they want to have success against Big 12 opponents.

[ More RRS: Thomsen feels good about eight guys up front ]

"We have an offensive line that I trust will get the job done," quarterback Seth Doege said. "The new offensive line coach, Chris Thomsen, has a lot of experience and he is working with some good players up there. I think we're going to be fine."

Depth is somewhat of a concern this season as none of the players listed on the second level of the team's official pre-camp depth chart saw any meaningful action last year.

Tony Morales and Alfredo Morales, coming off of redshirt seasons, impressed this spring. Midterm transfer Rashad Fortenberry, who signed with Tech out of Gulf Coast Community College in December, still needs to add weight but should be a serviceable No. 2 this season.

NEW FACES: Thomas may be the first Texas A&M player to transfer directly to Tech in the modern era of college football. He took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer and receive immediate eligibility as long as they have obtained a bachelor's degree and enroll in a graduate school program not offered at their original university.

[ More RRS: Who will start for Texas Tech at left guard? ]

Fortenberry was a nice get for the Red Raiders because he has two years of playing experience beyond the high school level. If McDaniel or Waddle goes down with an injury, Fortenberry should be serviceable in fill-in duty.

Tech added high school offensive tackle Trey Keenan and Rivals.com's fifth-ranked center prospect in Jared Kaster. Both players are expected to redshirt.

PRESSURE IS ON: Deveric Gallington. Gallington's performance will largely determine how well the offensive line performs as a unit, which in turn will dictate how smoothly the offense as a whole operates. He filled in admirably last season as a late fill-in for an injured Justin Keown, despite having limited experience at center. Gallington's biggest issue then, and at points this spring, was getting the football back to Seth Doege in the shotgun.

BIGGEST QUESTION: How quickly will the Red Raiders' offensive line mesh? LaAdrian Waddle, Deveric Gallington and Terry McDaniel have all started games for Tech, but only Waddle started all 12 games last season at his current position. There will be a new starter at left guard, either Beau Carpenter or Brian Thomas, and presumed starting right guard Le'Raven Clark is fresh off of a redshirt season.


PRE-CAMP DEPTH CHART
Texas Tech's offensive line is an interesting question mark heading into the season. Of the unit's top six linemen, Le'Raven Clark is the only player to have not started at least one game -- granted, Brian Thomas has never played a down as a Red Raider. On the other hand, there isn't much experience at all on the second level of the depth chart. That being said, Tech had quite a bit more experience up front heading into last season and that unit was one of the biggest disappointments on the team.
LEFT TACKLE
1. LaAdrian Waddle SR-3L Waddle has started 27 games overall in his career; the opener against Northwestern State will be his 26th consecutive start.
2. Rashad Fortenberry JR-TR Fortenberry enrolled at midterm after signing with Tech in December out of Gulf Coast C.C. in Perkinston, Miss.
LEFT GUARD
1. Beau Carpenter SO-1L With eight games under his belt, Carpenter is the team's fifth-most experienced offensive linemen.
2. Brian Thomas SR-TR Thomas started 25 games for Texas A&M before transferring to Tech earlier this year. He is undefeated in Jones Stadium as a player.
CENTER
1. Deveric Gallington SR-3L Gallington started all 12 games last season, but only had one start at center. His performance will determine the unit's performance.
2. Tony Morales FR-RS Morales, a four-star prospect coming out of high school, was recruited to be the Red Raiders' center of the future.
RIGHT GUARD
1. Le'Raven Clark FR-RS Clark has really filled out his frame since arriving on campus last year and could develop into a future NFL prospect.
2. Alfredo Morales FR-RS Morales had a good spring; he has the kind of mean streak that you want in an offensive lineman.
RIGHT TACKLE
1. Terry McDaniel SR-3L McDaniel is arguably Tech's most versatile lineman. He started at center and right tackle in 2011, and practiced at guard this spring.
2. Matt Wilson FR-RS Wilson, a third-team all-state selection as a senior at Coldspring, received a lot of quality reps during the spring.




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